Forum: Cancel and postpone, that was 2009

These are frustrating times for those who believe IT can make a positive contribution

It’s time, in this last issue of Computerworld for 2009, to look back on what by any measure was a challenging year.

Even the most cursory survey of comments in this year’s Year in Review special would have to conclude that it’s been a pretty tough time out there for both IT users and suppliers.

Economic uncertainty dominated the year for the private sector. In government, line-by-line cost reviews imposed by the new Government put many projects in doubt.

In Auckland, the super city amalgamation has put a hold on development ahead of what promises to be a massive integration project. While in health, Tony Ryall’s massive “non-restructuring” of the sector has led to a similar slow-down.

Such times can be frustrating for those who believe ICT can make a positive contribution to organisational efficiency and effectiveness — and even deliver transformation and improved services.

But New Zealand could be lucky. We had our recession earlier than most other countries and for our own reasons. We are already climbing out of it, though the future and shape of that recovery will still depend massively on what happens beyond our borders.

Nevertheless, 2010 is already promising to be a better year. Business sentiment is up. Consumer sentiment is up. And whether you like it or not, the government’s major plans for Auckland and health have to be substantially fulfilled in the coming year.

That spells activity.

And then there are the big technology changes coming that will drive more activity. I’m not sure whether it is 2009 or 2010 that will be remembered as the year of the cloud, but one of them will.

That doesn’t mean wholesale migration, but a range of strategies that could produce all sorts of cloud hybrids, corporate clouds and elastic computing infrastructures. It’s exciting stuff, but also carries a threat.

The threat is to IT headcount. We talk a lot about shifting resources out of managing daily operations into strategic development, but I remain concerned that once an efficiency is gained in IT, the headcount gets cut and no such shift actually happens.

After all, strategy is for managers. It couldn’t possibly be driven from the bottom up.

So, it’s time to make some predictions for 2010.

1. By the end of the year, we’ll still be talking about the parlous state of our broadband services.

2. By the end of the year, the Southern Cross Cable will remain our only international connection.

3. By the end of the year, the US commercial property bubble will have burst and credit card defaults will explode, precipitating a further financial collapse.

Journos are a cynical bunch. Happy new year!

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